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Prototyping a electromechanical system for deployment of lightweight and flexible solar panels on telecommunication towers adsa




6: Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Faculty Supervisor:

Vladimir Bulovic

Faculty email:


Apply by:

March 31st 2020


Anurag Panda (apanda@mit.edu, 617-452-5403)

Project Description

The GridEdge Solar Research program (https://gridedgesolar.org/) is an interdisciplinary team of electrical engineers, chemists, and materials scientists. The team is working toward designing, manufacturing and piloting of lightweight and flexible solar cells to increase energy access for low-income communities in emerging economies. Powering telecommunication towers using solar energy has the potential to reduce the barriers to telecommunication tower installations in remote communities and provide much needed information services. We are looking for a highly motivated undergraduate student who enjoys prototyping electromechanical systems, to develop an automated deployment mechanism for lightweight solar cells on telecommunication towers. A first version of the prototype is already developed, and based on the feedback from telecommunication tower company, a basic CAD model of the second version has also been developed. The student is expected to work independently to drive the design and prototyping work, and build a field-deployable prototype by the end of the upcoming summer. The student will be responsible for finalizing the parts selection, for making sure all the mechanical and electrical components work well together, and for ensuring the final design can withstand rugged outdoor use. In its final form, the prototype should be able to retract the solar panels with changes in wind conditions in a reliable manner, clean dust on the panels during retraction, and monitor and transmit real-time panel power output. At the conclusion of the project the prototype will be deployed on a telecommunication tower in Woburn, Massachusetts for outdoor testing.


Skills to be gained include product design, machining and manufacturing, interfacing motorized systems and sensors and a basic understanding of solar cell operation. Tools to be used include CAD, Mill, lathe, Arduino board, 3D printing and basic programming (in a language of student's choice). The student is expected to commit at a minimum 10 hours/week during the Spring semester. If the student wishes to continue to make progress on the project during the summer, a longer commitment is expected to get to a fully functional deployment system by September 2020.